In Pictures: 8 new features in Chrome (desktop or mobile)

Here are several significant features that have been added recently to the various versions of Chrome

  • Here are several significant features that have been added recently to the various versions of Chrome (desktop or mobile) plus betas of either desktop of mobile versions that are in ongoing development.

  • FEATURE: Access experimental features ADDED TO: Chrome Beta for Android In January, Google added the ability to access hidden, experimental features within Chrome Beta for Android in the same way that it’s done on the desktop versions of Chrome. Enter chrome://flags in the omnibox (URL address bar), and you’ll be presented with a list of functions that can be enabled, disabled or adjusted, such as WebGL support for Android, which was also added on the same date of this browser’s release.

  • FEATURE: Data compression ADDED TO: Chrome Beta for Android There’s a function that will compress the size of incoming data, which should save on bandwidth and load pages faster. It uses Google’s experimental protocol (SPDY), which was designed to cut down on the latency of web pages, and PageSpeed libraries to optimize online content. When activated, all images in a page will be transcoded to WebP, which was designed to have a small file size. This feature was added to Chrome Beta for Android on March 5. It can be activated in either version by entering chrome://flags in the omnibox, and enabling Enable SPDY/3.

  • FEATURE: Background audio playback and pause ADDED TO: Chrome Beta for Android As you’re listening to audio playing on a web page, you can open a new app or switch to another already running, and the audio emanating from Chrome Beta for Android will continue to play. In previous versions, the playback would pause. So you couldn’t listen to music or audio simultaneously as you perform other activities on your device. For Android phones, Chrome Beta will pause audio playing when you take a voice call.

  • FEATURE: Audio indicators on tabs ADDED TO: Chrome Beta Speaking of sound playing, this feature has been on user wish lists for all web browsers in general for years now -- and has finally shown up in the desktop versions of Chrome Beta. Sound playing from a web page is designated by an audio level meter set over the page’s favicon that throbs to its rhythm. So if you have several tabs open and sound suddenly plays from one of them that’s set in the background (like an ad with audio set to auto-play), this will help you hunt down the offending tab more easily.

  • FEATURE: Context-aware spell check ADDED TO: Chrome Beta The latest desktop versions of Chrome Beta have improved dictionaries to flag words you type as being misspelled. And, if you enable the “Ask Google for suggestions” feature, they can also determine whether spelling is correct within the context and grammar of a sentence. Hopefully, this will reduce the annoying habit of online commenters mixing up you’re/your and it’s/its.

  • FEATURE: Chrome to Mobile ADDED TO: Chrome for Android and iOS The latest mobile versions of Chrome are able to directly receive web pages from a desktop version of Chrome. First, you must install the Chrome to Mobile extension on the Chrome browser running on your desktop or notebook computer; then you have to be signed into your Google user account through Chrome. From that point on, as you browse the web, you can click the phone icon in the omnibox to send the current page you’re looking at to your phone or tablet to read later.

  • FEATURE: Ad-blocking apps banned ADDED TO: Chrome Beta for Android Google started pulling ad-blocking apps from the Google Play store in March, citing that they violate a provision in the Play Store Developer Distribution Agreement prohibiting apps that interfere with the properties and services of third parties. Affected popular apps that have disappeared from Google Play since then include AdAway, Adblock Plus and AdFree Android. Adblock Plus has been singled out further -- the March 14 release of Chrome Beta for Android has a specific call implemented in it to prevent web pages from displaying if Adblock Plus is installed. Ouch.

  • FEATURE: App launcher ADDED TO: Chrome Beta for Windows Here’s a feature that was brought over from Chrome OS, and implemented into the Windows version of Chrome Beta. As you install a Chrome packaged app (like CIRC or Text Drive) and allow the Chrome app launcher to be installed, a 3-by-3 grid icon will appear on the Windows Taskbar. Clicking this icon will open a small panel that lists shortcut icons of all the packaged apps and web apps you have installed on Chrome. Your Chrome apps will no longer appear in a new tab, but will be listed in this app launcher on the Windows Taskbar.

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